Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Restorative Jell-O

I restored Celeste's dress. Seemed like something I needed to do before moving along into this year's Jell-O Art. I pried off the excess of orchids and leaves that I stuck on there when I appropriated it for my 2011 sculpture. It looks magnificent in its simplicity and now it will get a corner of the Jell-O Art Museum in the full glory of itself.

I settled on a plan for this year's work, something I have been thinking about for a couple of years. I will do a miniature version of the Jell-O Art Museum (plan subject to change, of course...remember what happened to my well-laid plans last year when I broke my heel.)

So I interpreted Celeste's dress in miniature. Loosely interpreted, I should say. I plan to do this for as many of the famous Jell-O Art pieces as I can. It's a cute trick in many cases, and I love the scale of it.

It's a classic move to use Barbies or Barbie-size props in Jell-O Art. Her iconic being lends herself perfectly to the perverted kitschy kitchen-art aspects of using Jell-O for art, adding a layer of metaphor and familiarity, especially for those whose feminist thinking developed around Barbie's warped highheel feet and waspy waist. She's perfect for an apron, another iconic Jell-O Art object (say that with a French accent, please.)

My Barbie stand-in came apart years ago after I tried to get her out of a bath of Jell-O suds that had started to rot. You do not want to memorize the smell of rotten Jell-O, but it is an inevitable part of the total experience.

So anyway, I like using this artist's model that is about the same size. I have a Barbie dressing table and that jewelry case I found last month is on that scale too. I have a lot of photos of Jell-O of the past, and think I can make some recognizable replicas. I'm excited. And that is really the point of all this.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Jell-O Research

In case you need inspiration, there's Jell-O all over the internet. Here's just the kind of Sunday morning show we dream of seeing ourselves on...except for the part about the edible stuff, ick. 

The Gowanus Studios shows are on their site, and there are hundreds of links about Liz Hickock, who is fabulous. My blog will come up, and we have a few of our images still popping up in google searches, but you might be amazed how much is out there, and also how much is missing. If you can spell Gelatinaceae, you will find all kinds of me.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Why Jell-O?

Be assured, I will be providing lots of tips and tricks as we get closer to the Jell-O Show, but really, Jell-O Art is very simple: it all happens with you, in the privacy of your kitchen, where you cannot make any mistakes.

I don't mean you have to be careful, I mean that the nature of the Jell-O Art world is that anything goes. There are no rules. There is no good or bad Jell-O Art, though that does not prevent the mightly artist ego from trying to dominate...maybe that is where you (I) need to work.

The idea is that Jell-O is such a ridiculous medium, so impossible to manage, so clunky to finesse, so resistant to technique, that it can be high art: all self expression. It's something familiar, easily transformed, magical.

There is no critical structure, no evaluating, no rejection and no financial is pure fun. 

The substance itself, its clarity and brilliance, its intense color and seductiveness, will lead you to a place of joy and you just have to follow. 

So put on your apron and free yourself! Jell-O is not food, in our Jell-O Art universe. It is symbolic, representative, evocative, liberating, creative force in action. It's deep play.

At least that is what I have deduced from 25 years of indulging  myself in this media. I consider Jell-O Art to be what made me a "capital A" Artist. Through it I discovered my creative process, my blocks, my fears, my strengths, and my challenges.

My personal creative process goes like this: Start in January, if not sooner. Think about the theme, if there is one, and how it might relate to me. My pieces are almost always self-referential in obvious ways: whatever I did in the past year, and am presently creating, comes to play in my Jell-O.

I bring all of my gathered life-skills with me. Paper-making, screenprinting, cooking, chemistry, sculpture, painting, calligraphy, sewing, you name it: it all works into my piece at some point.

Whomever left this on the roadside must have seen me coming.
So in the beginning I try to stay open, and broad, and just take a blank sheet of paper and start listing every word or phrase that comes to mind. I start to scan my world for things or images that resonate. I shop a little, usually at the Goodwill or library, looking for things that relate, and amuse me. Old Jell-O recipes, images from its 100-year plus history, (I have the book "Jell-O, a Biography" which includes some stuff about our very show) and odd items land on my kitchen counter and my brain makes its vague connections.

At the same time I mix up some gelatin and make something. I might try out a mold I found, or make some flat sheets like I did last year, or some pieces of a particular color. These just get me into the process. I like to leave myself starting places to come back to, so I don't get stuck.

Gradually over the three winter months my ideas coalesce and magic happens. The t-shirts come at the end when my ideas are as ready to transmit as possible, and the show is fairly pinned down. Still, it doesn't happen until it happens, and that three-hour show is the real art piece. It's about way more than the Jell-O for me.

That's some of the thinking behind the scenes, and I'll tell more. You will be happy to know that the performance is in process and has already diverged wildly from any original concept that might have existed in someone's mind. The group creative process of writing the show is quite similar to mine, but multiplied and extrapolated and collaborative and quite wonderful.

My individual role as Queen will be doing a lot of promotion, a lot of assisting, set creation, throwing out clever one-liners, enriching the fiction, stuff like that. It seems that I will also be on stage, but from now on I will try to say very little about the content of the's better if it's a surprise, and that you have to be there to make it happen.

It will be hilarious, there is no doubt of that. It will be HOT! And so cool. It will be so much colorful brilliance and movement your head will spin and your neural pathways will open and you will be forever changed. This is Jell-O Art

So get yourself some Knox brand in the big box. It costs about $9 now I think, though I buy plain gelatin 25 pounds at a time on the internet for about $8 a pound. Mix up a few packets anywhere from 4 to 12 times stronger than the directions (more gelatin, less water.) I usually use 3 oz gelatin per cup of water, as I have been working mainly in dried gelatin for the last few years. Add some color with whatever you have. I use procion dyes because I have a lot of them around, and food coloring is too limited for me.

Mix it in cold water, stir and let it bloom for ten minutes, then melt it in the microwave or on the stove. Then you can pour it in molds, or for the dried gelatin variety, pour it in dishes in layers about 1/8" thick. If you are letting it dry, peel it from the pans and flip it to dry both sides, experimenting with its qualities at various stages. 

Experiment with your medium. It is supposed to be fun. Amuse yourself. Play!

That's all for now. There will be more. You have some time to let it percolate in your brain and soul and heart, because that is where the groove is. Find your groove. Dance.

Groove is in the heart-art-art-art-art....